Can't We All Just Get Along?

A rare occurrence has been taking place at my house.

Like... "call the Smithsonian" kind of rare.

My kids have been getting along. Working together, asking each other's advice -- then actually listening to the advice offered.

It is a beautiful thing.

To hear your children getting along warms the cockles of  my heart (I love to toss out the word "cockles" -- you just don't get to use that every day) and ranks right up there with their decision to accept Christ in baptism, as well as watching them use one of the many gifts God has given them.

I wonder.

I wonder how God feels about his own children getting along.

How He feels when I can't see past the fact that my brother in Christ chooses to tell God he loves Him and worship a different way than I do, so dismiss my brother altogether.

... or how He feels when I can't see past which lever my sister in Christ pulls on election day or the sign she has in her yard so speak venomous words about her to others.

I wonder how He feels when I judge my sister who was raised in an abusive home, or by a single parent who worked 3 jobs to make ends meet, so she shows up at worship dressed inappropriately and doesn't speak to her husband or children the way I think she should. I wonder if He wishes that I would come alongside her and love her instead of judge, and show her a better way... since no one ever has.

I wonder how He feels about us getting along? I'm pretty sure He told us:
'Having a laugh' photo (c) 2011, Lars Plougmann - license:

"I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:34,35

P.S. The littles are not my adorable doodlebugs. But they appear to be getting along. The bigs are mine on the first day of school. This is how we do "first day" pics.


Doing Great Things For God

Hello there. It's been a while. A very loooong while.

I finally have a thought. Would love to hear your thoughts on it, too. But, the reality is... no one is probably out there. It may have just been too long.

And this thought launches from another blog post I read almost a year ago. I would encourage you to read that one, because it says it way better than I will here.

 The general idea is that in the Christian culture/ lingo, many of us are encouraged/ told/ have the idea that we will/ need to "do great things for God." Of course, in our minds, "great things" can only mean either giving up your whole life to start an orphanage in a third world country, or becoming a well-known speaker and/or author so that your words touch thousands.

The deal is, God has a vastly different definition of "great things" than we do. My friend who will take someone to dinner when they ask her for money on the street -- and give them not only the gift of a full belly, but her attention and time, too, is doing great things for God, I believe. My friends who consistently and unselfishly care for their neighbors and family are doing great things for God. My friend who ministers to those on the fringes to let them know they are loved and not forgotten is doing great things for God.

You don't know any of these people's names, and likely never will, but surely you know people just like them, doing great things for God.

An enthusiastic, well-meaning gentleman tells me EVERY. TIME. he sees me, "I can't wait to see what great things God is going to do in your life. I just know God is going to do great things through you!" Sweet, I guess, but I just think, "What has He been doing in my life? Is raising babies not enough for God? Changing diapers in the nursery at church doesn't count for anything? Those HOURS that I have spent on youth trips -- praying and laughing and losing sleep with teens -- nada?"

I know people are doing more than me and other things --- but not all of us will do great things in the eyes of the world -- though lives will no doubt be changed by those things, as well. But all of us can do God's great things. I say this because I've been feeling the "woe is me" lie again -- the lie that I don't matter, that God isn't using me, that my years on this earth are amounting to nothing, and "everyone" is getting a book contract/ awesome job/ the right degree. I finally had to claim that as the lie that was. Sure, I have let many opportunities slip by me and I have learned beyond my fair share of lessons from mistakes.

But just because I am not doing things that thousands can see, it doesn't mean it isn't great in God's eyes. And I continue to pray that He is the only one I aim to please and impress -- and THAT is a whole other struggle unto itself.

May you do something great for God today -- one of God's great things.

"The greatest among you will be your servant"Matthew 23:11

Invited Into the Junk Closet

This is the last pondering/ rambling about us being a house, I promise!

Part 1: You are a House is here.

Part 2: Discernment (alternate title -- I can see in  your windows!) is here.

However, this is what started this whole thought process. I had to find a way to put words/ imagery to this experience.

I mentioned that we all have a junk closet in our house. Okay -- Jennifer only has a junk drawer. And it probably has labeled dividers in it. Whatev. (I actually don't have a junk closet in my physical house because I have exactly 3 closets in my house -- one in each bedroom -- but my laundry room gets an honorary nod as a junk closet. And the bottom of my pantry. And my attic. You get the idea...).

I have a dear friend whose figurative junk closet contained not only stuff that she crammed in there, but a WHOLE load of pain and garbage that life and other people piled in. I'll call her Hoarder of Other People's Junk. Several years ago, partly due to her choosing, and partly because life threw her yet another wrench, HOPJ finally cried "mercy" and said, "ENOUGH!!"

She dusted off her scraped and bruised knees, stood on her shaky feet, and proceeded to clean out that junk closet.

Ever been through a box of painful memories? Yeah -- that's cleaning out the junk closet. One photograph and memento at a time. Remembering the pain and heartache and tossing them out. In cleaning out the figurative junk closet, you come across habits and behaviors that you have created as coping/ comforting mechanisms to deal with the pain -- and depending on how healthy or unhealthy THOSE are, you may have to get rid of something that has been very comfortable for you.

In short, it's a pain to clean out the junk closet. Literally. It's an ugly process.

HOPJ has spent years getting healthy, uncovering those coping mechanisms, tossing out the unhealthy, forging a better life for herself. She is no longer HOPJ -- now she is Standing on Her Own Two Feet.

'empty closet' photo (c) 2009, Sarah_Ackerman - license: too long ago, Standing invited me into her former junk closet. There is one last order of business that needs taking care of on her road to a complete closet re-do -- and she would like my help.

Realizing that this closet has held some of her deepest pain and biggest hurts, I had to confess my hesitation. Hesitation not only to simply be there, but to say anything once I came in:

"I'm... I'm not sure what I can say and can't say about this last pile of junk."

"You can say anything."

Very thoughtfully, she explained: "You have enough deposits in my love bank. I know that anything you say is out of love and wanting my closet to be clean. ThisOne can't say anything. I just got through shoveling fifty pounds of manure that ThisOne dumped in my junk closet, so ThisOne can't say a word without it upsetting me. It's just bringing the junk back into the closet. But you? You can say anything."

At that moment in time, I felt the urge to remove my shoes.

I realized that I was standing on Holy Ground.

To be invited into the deepest recesses of another's soul -- the place where the biggest hurts and fears, and even the biggest Dreams, live-- is a hallowed, sacred place.

I realized the level of trust it took for Standing to invite me in, lay bare her hurts and fears, and let us sit in the middle of her junk closet together and find a way to clean that sucker out.

I wondered how often someone has allowed me -- without me having full awareness -- a toe, a glimpse, a part of his/ her junk closet... and I treated it flippantly, casually, a wave of the hand, a smile, a half of an ear.

And when I didn't understand the gravity of that situation, not only did I pile more into the junk closet, but that person put one more nail in the door, vowing never to let anyone else peek inside again.

It is a beautiful, sacred experience when we offer pieces of our lives and selves to each other. When  trust is established and we know it is a safe place to be. It goes so far beyond fellowship, yet must start there.

And... truth be told. You have to go first. You have to be willing to trust someone first. And at some point someone will breech that trust and you'll get hurt (you can forgive, but you don't have to be an idiot and trust them twice...). That's what makes us all tick and connect. The ability to reach out and say: "I think you're worth taking a risk on. I like you. I trust you with my junk."

And? Follow Standing's example. Get your junk cleaned out. Get a professional junk cleaner if necessary. Find a friend/ spouse who will go through your junk with you. Because life is constantly piling on new junk. No need to keep dragging around the old junk.



I don't know if I'm a slow learner or if it takes all of us well into our adulthood to know and figure out our spiritual gifts.

I'm trying to prevent this in my children -- and verbalize what spiritual gifts I see in them. I'm not much of a visionary, so it's up to them to hear how God wants to use it in their lives, but I do think identifying your own gifts is the first step.

Partly because some vague gifts we don't realize that other people don't have.

So it is with my own gift of discernment.

That's one of the reasons that I started pondering us -- our beings, our souls, the part that makes us who we are -- as a house. I was trying to put words to my gift of discernment -- and why so few people appreciate it in me. :-)

As I stated, I think most people spend most of their relationships on their front porch. I'm learning that a few people don't ever go into their own homes at all -- too painful, perhaps, too disorderly... but they simply can't walk in there at all. Not even in the quiet of their own thoughts.

So there they are on the porch. I stroll by, seeing how our relationship is going.

This is where my discernment has gotten me in trouble more times than I care to think about.

'Fenster02' photo (c) 2009, Stefan Schmitz - license: allows me to see in your windows. Not necessarily all the way to your junk closet -- but I can tell if you have a junk closet or not, and if it's bulging at the hinges or if you clean it out periodically. I can peek into parts of your house you may already know but don't want to talk about... or you may have no idea because you don't want to know.

Being helpful, I think you should know:
"Um... your couch is on fire... would you like some help putting that out? I'll go with you to get water, call the fire department... I'll even help you pick out a new couch!"

"What??" you reply. "I don't have a couch! Don't be ridiculous! Hey, did you see the new flip flops I got? Did you hear about the awesome award my kid got? What about that new TV series? Aren't you watching it?"

"Uh... yeah... all those things are great. But, seriously. Your couch? Totally ablaze in there. Can I help you with that?"

And now I have crossed the line. Because people who don't go inside their own houses don't want to hear about what's going on in there. And they give me all kinds of reasons that I may THINK their couch may be on fire, but it actually isn't. And our relationship is quite icy from there on out.

Just as we have to teach children it's rude to look into other people's windows, so we must teach those with discernment to play the game and pretend not to see... until the person is ready to see. It's rude to look into other people's windows. Not everyone is ready for what is in there.


Angels Unaware

I have written for a magazine called "Christian Chronicle" so occasionally the editor will send out a call for news, pictures, or thoughts or ideas.

Most recently (that I remember) he relayed his experience (that he VERY eloquently wrote about here) of visiting a congregation and not being greeted very warmly and was curious if we had ever experienced the same thing.

Oh, dear.

I am ALWAYS happy to give my opinion about something, and if it's something that I feel strongly about? Well, you just better make yourself comfortable, because I have got a THING or two to say!

Ten years ago, when our family moved to SmallTown (but with gazillion churches) we encountered the same thing to a degree: no one really speaks to you unless a member forces them to: "HEY! Have you met the Stirmans??? They are moving here! They are looking for a church home!" THEN the light bulb goes off and the friendly switch comes on. We got a little bit of that since my husband was working at one of the largest places in town and we knew a few people in town already.

Ironically, we honestly ended up placing membership at the least friendly church we encountered. But we knew a few people, and knew that we would eventually know more. But, BOY, did we have to WORK to know more!

At one point, very early in our time there, our lives were beyond stressful -- moving to SmallTown was a fiasco in and of itself -- and I sat through one entire Wednesday evening service with tears running down my face and occasionally sobbing. I was in the middle of enough people (and next to Troy) that it was pretty impossible to miss my emotional state.  Not one person inquired to my well being or even offered me a tissue. I began to question our decision to make that our church home -- and I definitely vowed to change how I viewed and treated people I didn't know within the walls of a church building.

Not long after my crying incident, I finally wearied of sitting in a Sunday school class FULL of people -- and none of them talking to me or my husband -- so we offered to help with the college students. That availed us to some people who were willing to get to know us: both the college students and the lovely people who worked with them.

'Handshake' photo (c) 2008, Jeff McNeill - license: I began to methodically meet my church family in a very simple, straightforward manner:
"Hi! My name is Sarah. I'm not sure we've met...?" (extending my hand to be shaken by person I don't recognize).

"Are you a member here?"

Sometimes I would meet a member. Sometimes I would meet a visitor. I was still doing that the Sunday before we moved away -- 10 years later -- and when that particular member said her name, I knew who she was, and who she was friends with, but we had never met. I also knew where she sat in first service (due to my previous sign language interpreting) and since I mainly attended second service, we didn't really cross paths.

Yay! I finally met someone that I had been worshiping with for 10 years! That's not embarrassing. That's knowing my church family!

So when we had to up and move to Suburbia -- oye with the starting over looking for churches! It's just so hard.

Here is the article that came from my rant about that.

In short, my portion says that of course, NOW we have "shake and bake" (a term not original to me, but my friend LOVES it that her moniker for the forced time of greeting in church made it into the Christian Chronicle) and people will slap a smile on their face THEN and greet you -- but I can think of several churches we visited where our family very awkwardly stood and chatted with each other while the people around us heartily greeted the people they already knew... and said nothing to us.

People... it isn't hard: do you recognize that face? No? Then introduce yourself!

I had someone say to me: "But that's just in your and Troy's nature..."

Uh, NO! It is not! My nature is to sit and study my cuticles and the pattern on the carpet. I am the definition of an introvert and am really good sitting there. However, my nature IS compassionate, and I know what it feels like to walk into a church and feel like NO ONE cares that you came or went. And it feels really crappy. And heaven forbid anyone feel that way with me sitting looking at my cuticles.

So I reach beyond my nature, extend my hand, and say: "Hi! I'm Sarah! I'm not sure we've met...?"

Now, time for true confessions:

A guy at church was kidding me about that article... yes the one where I complained that no one talked to us at church. As he's talking to me, I'm finding my way to my seat, stepping over a lady I don't recognize. He and I chat about our various experiences with such churches right up until church starts. At the end of church, several of us went up to pray with a family that was leaving to do mission work. I stepped over lady again to get out. At the end of the prayer, I turned and tried to get to her... but she and her daughter were hurrying out the door.

I am fairly certain not one person in that room spoke to her. While I sat next to her talking about that article where I complained about unfriendly churches.

That, boys and girls, is what is known as irony...

And I feel horrible.

However, I have to remind myself: there were 200 people in that room. SOMEONE could have stuck out a hand and said, "Hello! My name is...." But I'm fairly certain no one did. And I doubt we will get a second chance to say hello to her.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing.” Hebrews 13:2


A House?

'Unknown House in Keene New Hampshire' photo (c) 2011, Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County - license: are a house.

Nope. Not as BIG AS a house.

You are a house.

Your being, your soul, the part that makes you you -- that is your house.

If you know me the least little bit, you know that I am prone to pick apart a thought and over think and WAY over talk it, and lately I’ve been pondering us as a house. So now I shall over talk/ write it.

I think of our selves -- our real, true selves -- as our houses.

The thing is, most of our relationships in life are front porch relationships. And not in the “sit on the front porch and rock” good kind of way. In the “I don’t really want you in my house, so let’s stand on the porch and talk about the weather, my landscaping, good movies, other people, and how awesome my kids are” kind of way.

Every once in a great little while we will have a true and honest friend -- and, hopefully our spouses-- that we invite into our houses. We don't mind if they help us "fix up" a little, even. What one might call "holding us accountable" to some public goal we have.

But there is generally the junk closet. C’mon you have one. You know you do.

In your house and in your soul there is a junk closet -- full of pain and mess and crup that you want to keep the door locked and sealed forever on... like Monica’s closet on Friends.

It’s the rare friend that we invite into our houses. Rarer still, the friend that we ask to help us clean out our junk closet.

It's a dangerous prospect, the cleaning of the junk closet. For one, you have to dig back out the pain you purposefully crammed in there. And if you have someone cleaning with you, there is always the possibility of being hurt further. Because, let's be honest, every relationship is the potential for hurt. However... I've found that the majority are worth the risk. Especially junk closet friends.

Praying that you have friends in your life that you would invite into your junk closet -- your literal and figurative junk closet.


One Year Ago...

One Year Ago...

May 14th marked one year that our family has had an address here in Suburbia, USA. I say it that way because after the big truck unloaded our furniture, the kids and I turned right around and went back to Small Town, USA to finish the school year. We lived in hotels and with friends and survived bronchitis and band concerts and living out of suitcases.

I think back to what the last year has brought and done for my family, and where our feet are pointed now.

There have been struggles and difficulties, as there always are in a relocation, particularly for teenagers. There have been victories and successes, as there always are when God is in it.

I still feel, to some degree, in that No Man's Land of between-ness.

There have been hard things that have pulled us back, physically, to Small Town to help grieve.

There have been hard things that have pulled us back, emotionally, to Small Town to wish we were there to help grieve and offer hugs.

There have been happy things that have pulled us back, physically, to Small Town to celebrate.

There have been happy things that have pulled us back, emotionally, to Small Town that we celebrate from afar, offering congratulations and enjoying photos.

Here, we are still tip-toeing toward acceptance and belonging. People are so very kind and gracious, but the reality is that true and real relationships take forging.

When my dear and wonderful Mark 2 friend leaned across a grimy table in the Taco Bueno in Small Town almost 10 years ago now, our children leap-frogging tables behind us, tears glistened in her eyes. "I am COMMITTED to your marriage making it!" she exclaimed. She had steel resolve where I did not as my marriage was barely able to be resuscitated.

"We'll get through this," said this woman I barely knew. "This is how friendships are made...."

She repeated the same thing less than a year later.

Another Mark 2 friend had found hard, hard news -- her son, her 6 year old with the bluest eyes any of us had ever seen, had a brain tumor. Get to BigCityHospital. Now.

We met at the airport to pray and see them off. Watching them walk out to the plane, Taco Bueno friend said it again:

"We're going to have to be there for her. But we will. This is how friendships are made..."

You know what I was thinking? "Can't we just meet together and play Monopoly? Have a Diet Coke?"

But the reality is no. She's right. Friendships are forged on the anvil of tears and tragedy, prayers and pain. Which is why she is still a dear friend today.

Here I have met and come to know people that I  know will be forever friends. I know that there are forever friends yet to meet.

But as hard things have unfolded around us -- and they have -- I have not been witness to the history, the back story, or the forging. My heart is sad for the hurt surrounding the hard thing, but I am on the periphery.

And as celebrations have occurred I have enjoyed watching people rejoice together and celebrate, but I am unaware of the struggle that took place to get the butterfly in flight. I am still a little bit on the outside.

God is, of course, at work in our time here. Every day that we are here we begin to be a little more clear about why we were called here -- why God needed this to be our mission field. I know that God did not bring us here to work alone, either.

He continues to reveal to us people who will journey beside us, champion our children, and do mission work with us. I know that there are still things to learn about our purpose, call, and mission.

And I know that there are friendships to be forged.

And through it all, He will be there, for He is faithful.

"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures." Psalm 16:11


For Mother's Day

originally published in Abilene Families
(originally written May, 2006)

As a mother, you would think that I would be all about Mother’s Day – a day just for ME, a day to get, get, get, and a day when praise is lavished on all mothers. Who could ask for anything more? Truthfully, mother’s day – especially the Hallmark version of it – makes me very uncomfortable. You know which kind of image I’m talking about – a young mother, clad in a pristine white gown in an immaculate, beautifully decorated home, holding a perfectly chubby, cooing baby as they gaze into each other’s eyes.

The poetry accompanying the image details the sacrifices the loving mother makes and how wonderful she is and on and on and on. I simply can’t relate: My home has never been immaculate OR decorated, I learned a long time ago not to wear white while holding a child of any age, and I regret how much time I didn’t spend gazing at my babies before they transformed into galloping toddlers, now pre-teens.

The words are what make me squirm the most. Mothers are not defined by the Hallmark moments, but by the horrible moments. Anybody loves to play with a giggling baby or rambunctious toddler, but it’s mom who cleans up when potty-training is not quite successful. It’s mom wiping heads and doing laundry and providing a clean basin when the stomach virus tears through the house at 3 a.m.

It’s mom holding constant vigil at a hospital bedside or waiting room. It’s mom lifting, feeding, bathing, and caring for a handicapped child day in and day out. It’s mom wearing a trough in the carpet next to her bed as she kneels for a child who has lost their way or is fighting in harm’s way or whose heart is broken beyond repair. I don’t know of any woman who would ask to be put in any of those situations, but those are the moments that define motherhood. We don’t want praise or pretty words about things we do that we would rather not do. It’s just what we do. It’s being a mom.

While these flowery thoughts and sentiments make me somewhat uncomfortable, they can be downright painful for many people. Mothers who must wait until they get to heaven to hug their child again, mothers who selflessly blessed an adoptive family with their own baby, mothers whose only children are really nieces, nephews, and friends since life has not brought her children of her own and countless other situations can bring pain and disappointment to this day of celebration.

As you think of the women you know that you would consider “extraordinary mothers”, they are probably women making it just one day at a time in extraordinary situations. You probably don’t call to mind a mom of two healthy children with a healthy spouse still living in the home. You probably don’t think of someone like, well, me. The extraordinary mothers we know may have many children raising them all to be successful individuals, may have handicapped or chronically ill children, may have lost a child, or may go to great lengths for her children to have normalcy in the midst of difficult life circumstances. Few of these women would want the accolades or flowery words of a Hallmark commercial. They are simply putting one foot in front of the other because another being in this life depends on it. It’s just what we do. It’s being a mom.

I can’t speak for all moms, but as much as I love words, I don’t want to hear many about what kind of mom I am on Mother’s Day. For me, it simply reminds me of all the places I fall short or what a bad attitude I occasionally have while doing what I do – being a mom. Oh, sure, I won’t turn down any gifts – diamonds are my favorite, sapphire is my birthstone, and if you’re buying a ring remember that my fingers are crazy skinny – but if you need to use any words, a simple, “Thanks for what you do” will suffice, and I wouldn’t mind hearing that once a week. Not saying, “But I don’t want to” when asked to do your job would be nice, because I rarely want to cook your dinner or fold your clothes, but it’s what I do. It’s being a mom. And, most of all, just grow up to make your momma proud.

Unfortunately, in the past year, my children have been acquainted with several children who have lost a parent to death. Knowing that anything can happen, I have been reminded at those times to let my children know what I want most for them out of life. At one point we were driving and discussing a child who had lost a parent and how hard that would be. I said, “If anything ever happens to me, first I want you to know how much I love you. And all I want for you in life is to love the Lord and to marry someone who loves the Lord.”

This brought a know-it-all nod from one child who said in a satisfied tone, “I knew you were going to say that.”

Very well, then. Carry on. That’s all I need to know for a happy Mother’s Day!


Teacher Appreciation

(This was written years ago as the only way I knew to thank my children's teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week. It is still as true today as it was then, though our move has kept me from knowing my children's teachers as well as I have in the past. They still mold, shape, and encourage, and I am still forever grateful for all that they do.)

This month includes teacher appreciation week. Every year I promise myself that starting in April I will get all of my ducks in a row and do something excessively wonderful for all of my children's teachers. And every April looks just like the last where I finish out the month with disheveled hair and wild eyes screaming, "What was THAT??"

I rarely do anything excessively wonderful for my children's teachers but I do appreciate them.

I always tell people that my philosophy on choosing how to educate your children (public, private, or home) is to do it prayerfully and carefully, and be willing to admit at any moment that it is no longer working for your family and change gears.

Thus far, we have been in public schools. Thus far, I still cannot believe how blessed my children have been with teachers and administrators. I do not request or choose teachers for my children, I pray and let the One who knit them and knew them before I did choose my children's teachers for them. He has never failed.

Yes, my children are my responsibility. Beyond my responsibility, they are little pieces of my heart out walking around on this planet. But research tells us that the more adults my children have that take an interest in their lives and have a relationship with my children, the more successful they will be in all areas of life. My children's teachers have not disappointed.

To you, precious people, words are not enough. How do you say 'thank you for being a brush stroke and background lighting for this masterpiece of a human'? How can I tell each of you that your delight in my child's successes fanned into flame a passion that will carry them into adulthood? You have pointed out strengths and pushed them along and kept them from doing 'just enough'.

None of you have let my children blend into the background. You have encouraged and cheered, praised and prodded, expected the best and never accepted the worst.

I have done your job. That is why I am now not doing your job. It is NOT for the faint of heart (or weary of foot). It is for people with tender hearts, thick skin, and a million hugging arms. It is for people with cast iron stomachs, bladders of elastic, and Solomon's wisdom.

I know that by this time of year you don't want to be appreciated by any way other than a day away from these people and you wonder if you would actually come back. But for some crazy reason, back you come. Sometimes you wonder if it's just your car coming out of habit.

Even at middle school level, you wouldn't believe how much I hear about you and how you touch my child's life and shape their values by what you find funny, the way you treat other students, and even the music played in your class; how your sad days will make my tender-hearted child's heart ache until you are smiling again.

You live in my neighborhood, worship at our church, exercise at my gym, shop at my grocery store. We see you and feel like a part of your life. You are a beloved part of my family, but not the crazy faction that we try to abstain from visiting. And I am part of yours -- if for no other reason than the fact that you have given your all to my children and there is little of you left by the end of the day. Thank you, and thank your family for us, too.

I can't say thank you enough or adequately. But I do thank you, and pray frequently for you. This time of year, my prayer is "strength for the journey". May you truly have strength for your journey, and countless blessings in your life for the blessing you are in mine.

I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3


The Mosaic of My Life

My friend Julie makes mosaics. Beautiful pieces of art using broken glass, otherwise useless.
'Three Lilies Platter' photo (c) 2001, Shirley - license:

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to return to the congregation where I grew up in Louisiana. I was privileged to speak to women that have had a hand in raising me: teaching me Sunday school,  accompanying me on youth trips. Many have prayed for me through the years and love my family because they are mine.

Returning to my family in Texas I considered where I am from and where I have ended up and the beautiful mosaic that God has created from all of the stops along the way. God has taken me to many different towns and places. Each place He has sent me many different women and people to mentor and love me throughout the years.

Thankfully, these gray hairs and wrinkles come with better vision -- not physical vision, that's declining with everything else. But my vision to see the broken pieces of my life being healed and used for God's glory, and the parts of my life that seemed pointless and a waste of time I can now see were all part of His tapestry for my life.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord..." Jeremiah 29:11

Many of the disasters of my life seemed to be pieces shattered beyond repair at the time, or tiny fragments completely useless for any purpose. But God. As I offered them up to Him as a sacrifice of praise -- or, let's be honest, sometimes threw them at Him in disgust and said, "What in the world am I supposed to do with THIS???" -- He gently scooped up the pieces, gently picking out the beautiful parts.

God continues to make me into a beautiful mosaic masterpiece. I can't see the finished product -- just a jumble of broken pieces. But I have lived long enough to witness the beautiful work He has done, and I trust that as I submit each tiny shard of my life, He can create far more beautiful than I could ever imagine.

 Created from broken pieces -- unusable individually, but put together to become a beautiful work of His.

"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8


Book Review: Diary of a Mad Fat Girl

I recently had the pleasure of reading Diary of a Mad Fat Girl for review for the BlogHer Book Club.
Cover pic from Amazon
 Diary of a Mad Fat Girl is set in Bugtussle, Mississippi with a likeable cast of characters. Graciela "Ace" Jones is a high school teacher with a bit of a temper and smart mouth.  Her two best friend teachers are Lilly and Chloe. Lilly is fired by the mean-spirited principal under suspicion of sleeping with a student. Ace and Chloe try to prove Lilly's innocence until Chloe's abusive husband becomes more volatile. So Ace sets off to ruin his reputation while saving Lilly's. All of this while trying to determine her feelings for a former boyfriend and keeping her beloved chiweenie dog, Buster Loo, in line. 

In short, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read, a quick read, and I found the characters real and enjoyable. Stephanie McAfee was born in Mississippi and now lives in Florida, so she gets it. She knows that there are so many stereotypes about the south because some of us are a stereotype of ourselves.

She touched on real issues like *wink, wink*ing at horrific educators because they are your Great Aunt Sue's cousin... or something, and domestic violence while keeping it real with Ace's chiweenie getting overly friendly at the dog park and Ace having fashion crisis when her thighs were too big. 

Parts were laugh out loud funny and cheer for the good guy victorious. An awesome book to take to the beach for a summer read.

Sarah's FULL disclaimer: (you know I can't give you any less than my 100% honest opinion!): I had a hard time liking Ace at first. She was VERY angry. About everything, it seemed. It seemed to settle down a bit and I saw her likeable qualities more. However, I found her language to be a bit coarse for what I would use in conversation. No expletives (that I remember) -- just some things that I wouldn't use in mixed company (and she didn't -- she was either talking to herself or her best friend). Not my cup of tea.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. But you knew that.

If you would like to participate in other discussion about Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, head over to the BlogHer Book Club.


When a Disappoint May Be a Divine Appointment

Y'all know me.

I love words.

Big words. Little words.

A word nerd.

Thus it was that in trying to figure out how to spell the word 'disappointment', I was blown away by the fact that disappointment itself may lead to God's biggest plan for me yet.

I'm guest posting at (in)courage today. Come check it out.


Considering Valentine's Day

originally in Abilene Families

My family experienced some minor medical drama the week between Christmas and New Year's while traveling out of state. On one of my many trips to the drug store, I had to stop dead in my tracks. I was perusing the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper on clearance. I turned around to look for more, and was faced with a shelf full of boxes of Valentine's cards that children will use to declare love for classmates. Before the confetti of the New Year's holiday is swept up, the shelves in stores are fully stocked with hearts, balloons, and all manner of Valentine props and paraphernalia.
Image: Salvatore Vuono /
 Maybe it's age, maybe it's motherhood, maybe it's global warming, but I don't think of Valentine's Day the same way that I did as a young, single woman or newlywed. Valentine's Day is a fun, light-hearted opportunity to lavish love on those around you, but life has shown me that love rarely looks like the front of a Hallmark card.

Love is not running along a beach hand in hand. Love holds the flashlight in the middle of the night, make-up long gone and tempers flaring, holding your tongue while your sweetie attempts an emergency home repair. Love isn't demonstrated by dewy eyes across a candlelit meal, but rather by one more run to the doctor or pharmacy when you are exhausted beyond reasonable or rational thought.

Valentine's Day lends itself to romance. Romance is wonderful and exciting, but won't take you very far when the stomach bug hits, or your "Love Shack" floods, or one of your parents is critically ill and/or dies. Romance will not be found in any of those situations, but love is there larger than life. Love brings the cool wash cloth again and again for the stomach bug, and mops and covertly repairs damaged keepsakes during the flood, and cries and holds and works and loves with an ill family member.

Love is not rose petals and champagne, but aching backs and work gloves. Love at my house never dances in an evening gown or tuxedo, but love supplies the elbow grease, the patience, the encouragement, and the clean clothes to face each day and, Lord willin' a comforting place to come home to when the day seems to come out on top. Love is holding tight when no words will fix it, and tears the only language uttered.

Love is not a polished, glimmery state. Love is messy, inconvenient, and frustrating. Love is giving up the last ounce of energy, sleep, time, or chocolate for the well-being of another. Love isn't found in romantic restaurants or destinations, but in hospital waiting rooms, the lobby of funeral homes, and kneeling in prayer next to race-car or princess beds in the middle of the night. Love is less about flowers and cartoon hearts, and everything about the value of another soul on this planet. I guess that's a little harder to put on the side of a coffee mug.

I will play along this Valentine's Day, like all the others, and I certainly hope for you to feel cherished on that day. But, later in the year when the toilet overflows while the drama at school comes to a boiling point and work causes too many demands to keep everyone civil, love will be there with a plunger, Kleenex for the tears, and hugs, pats, and kisses for all the things the plunger and Kleenex won't fix. Consider that your own Valentine's Day -- but don't look for Hallmark to make a card for it anytime soon.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

(Sarah's note: This was originally published three years ago and has been borrowed for sermons and published in various places around the Internet. It still is one of my personal favorites, too. Thankful for a day to stop and remember the love we have for each other, but more grateful for the God we worship that allows us to start over when we get it wrong.)


Strong In My Weakness

I caved. I gave in. I broke.

I just broke a 20 day streak without Diet Coke at lunch today.

Starting over.

Please don't feel obligated to tell me all the ways Diet Coke is horrible for me to try to encourage me to break my habit. I know.
By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 As a migraine sufferer, I gave up Diet Coke "for good" in 2010. In my prolific reading about migraines and triggers, one point made sense to me: any triggers that you can get out of your life, you should, and caffeine addiction is an obvious one. This particular author recommended that migraine sufferers put down caffeine and never return to it. I did, and felt better.

(Yes, caffeine is used to treat migraines. Different story. I am happy to discuss what I know about migraines with you if you are interested. Email me.)

Made it all the way until June, too. Don't know why I took a sip or two of Satan's milk. But I did. And there you go. I was a goner. That six month stretch is the longest I've had since (but that also is when Troy lost his job, so trying to give up my serious addiction in the face of unemployment, then long-distance marriage/ single-motherhood/ house for sale, then move/ relocating teenagers.

January is when I tried (AGAIN) to really get off of it for good. I went a little too cold turkey on a rainy, hormonal week and kept a migraine for about 5 days, but I was NOT turning back at that point.

Last year, one (of my four) words for the year was "gentleness." This struggle has given me gentleness with those struggling with real addictions. If I can't lay down my bubbly goodness for more than 20 days, then I am sure not going to throw stones at people trying to walk away from tobacco, alcohol, a prescription they've found they rely on, or anything like that.

The Lord is also leading me to see that, though I am a healthy eater, I (still) have some food addictions I'm not quite ready to give up. Foods that I know aren't the best fuel for my workouts or body, but I just flat don't want to walk away from. I believe with all my heart (when it comes to types of food) that “ 'Everything is permissible'–but not everything is beneficial." (1 Cor. 10:23). And as I try to do what is most beneficial for me in my food choices, I find that I am very, very weak.

A friend urged me to claim 2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10 for this year:

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 

Um... that's not very fun. But oh, so true. And I have seen the many many ways God will work if I will remember that He is strong in my weakness.

This sounds pretty heavy for one cup of Diet Coke, huh?

So... I'm taking suggestions on how to completely walk away from this habit. Starting over...NOW. I'm considering paying myself $1 or $2 (the cost of one out) when I am super tempted. When I break 20 days again, I'll either treat myself to something fun or keep saving up for something big. 

I think I used to be more strong-willed than this and just got tired. What about you? Strong willed? Habit you're trying to break? Want an accountability partner? I'm in!


Looking Back at My Struggles

It's a gray morning here. Rain is in the forecast, and my looming migraine tells me it's on the way.

I don't know -- now that I'm almost half-way through February -- that I will ever go back and confess to you how much I did not get accomplished on my Twelve by 2012 list. I think that was the post where I saw someone write, "I am not one to not finish what I started." It has become glaringly obvious to me that I rarely finish anything that I start.

Except a Diet Coke. 


I get in the middle of projects and leave them half-done and guilt-ridden in the middle of my floor. I make a meal for myself and am SO! HUNGRY! that I SAY to myself that I will clean it up later and... later never comes. As you can imagine, housekeeping is not my strong suit...

However, in looking at my list, I did (somewhat) accomplish 8 of my 12. Instead of registering for a half-marathon, I am now registered for a 10K at Cowtown. I just didn't feel ready to take on that level of training -- mentally or physically.

The thing that most people commented on the most was my "Sarah is unavailable file" -- my file of what will happen when I am deceased. Yeah, that is something I have started and never finished. Don't let anything happen to me until that is finished, okay? And if it does, someone give my poor dog her meds, okay?

I still haven't done much house decorating. Meh.

So, don't you worry. I still have plenty of things to work on IN 2012!

As 2012 is chugging along, I am being made aware day by day of marriages that are struggling, people that are battling some of my same battles, and so many heartaches and heartbreaks in this world.

God is putting on my heart what a blessing my past struggles have been. Places that I have struggled and come out stronger, places that I can look back and still see the battlefield. There are times in my life that I wouldn't take a million dollars to walk back through -- but I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience, lessons, and blessings that came from those times. From big things like unemployment and marriage struggles and parenting doubts to small things like organizational challenges (yeah, still in the middle of that) to budget struggles (okay... still there) to the diaper days (NO! Not there!)

I am sad with the people that are in the midst of those struggles, but at the same time, I hope that I can foster hope by standing on the other side of the mire and saying, "You can get through it. I promise. I know it's hard. I know you want to quit. It is so worth it. Keep trying."

It's that hope word again. Only available through Christ in me. Powerful.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," 1 Peter 3:15

And Christ in me also provides comfort:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Without the hope of Christ, without the comfort of Christ, my past struggles and battles would have completely overwhelmed and consumed me. But God. 

So grateful today. If you're in the midst of a struggle, may Christ in you offer you hope and comfort that another day will come, and that it's not forever. Blessings.


Seriously. I'm Here

I honestly didn't mean to be gone again FOREVER, but Jiminy Christmas -- what a week.

First -- Matt's funeral? Most beautiful and holy experience I have witnessed. So thankful we were able to make it.

My ladies class at church is studying the life of David. We had just, the week before, read 2 Samuel 12:19,20:
"David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.  “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped."

None of us could imagine worshiping the Lord after losing a child -- until I witnessed Matt's parents doing that very thing. Beautiful. Holy. Sacred.  


We came back into town JUST in time for Ashley's appointment -- to get her driver's license! Yay! And for Riley to turn in his science fair project! ENORMOUS yay! Then there were mandatory meetings for a class Ashley is taking, orthodontist appointment, vet appointment, a band concert, groceries? You want groceries? Then Friday afternoon and ALLLLLLLLLLLL day Saturday I had a volunteer obligation as band parent. I was coordinating something for the Solo/ Ensemble contest that was being held at the high school campus. In short, Saturday was the longest day of my life and I spent most of it fantasizing about my Sunday afternoon nap.

And for some reason I signed up to give blood Monday afternoon. I knew I would be tired last night, but all day today it's pretty much been all I could do to walk across the room. Which is unfortunate, because I had grand plans to whip this house into shape after being ignored after all the comings and goings last week (I had a hair appointment yesterday morning and was gone all day). 

Through the mayhem of the time, my kids continue to be an affirmation that I have a blessed life. Not a perfect life, but immensely blessed.

Miss being here among you. On my way back. Pinky promise.


Surviving the 4th (or any holiday) Without Blowing Your Diet Progress

I am involved in a fitness/ weight loss class at my church. I wanted to encourage my class mates about the upcoming holiday and thought this would be the best place to write it all down.

You are welcome to "listen in"... or just wait and tune in when I have something else fascinating to say. :-)

Thoughts and ideas about how to get through the 4th without sabotaging your efforts:

'Fireworks' photo (c) 2008, bayasaa - license: Remember the reason for the holiday:
So many of us approach holidays and family gatherings as food-centered events. The average American gains 10-12 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's (and few take them back off the following year). So... if you think about it logically: simply because we appreciate the pilgrims, honor the birth of our Lord, and watch the calendar turn the page, we eat our way through 6-7 weeks? It really isn't a reason to eat. Nor is celebrating the freedom of our country. Focus on the people that you are gathered with, enjoy the company, and enjoy going home without feeling uncomfortably full.

2) Approach celebrations and parties with a plan:
Do you know what food will be there? Do you know which of those foods are your greatest temptations? Offer to bring some fruit so that you will have something to munch on instead of chips, as well as something you can snack on instead of cookies. Budget your calories to include your favorite foods. Maybe workout extra long in the morning so that you can have some potato salad.

3) Don't show up to a celebration starving:
Have a small snack of some nuts and/ or fruit, maybe some yogurt (something with protein) shortly before you go so that even the tablecloth doesn't look like a good snack!

4) Everything in moderation:
Anything at a picnic or celebration will fit into your calorie budget for the day -- if you stop with a few bites. Enjoy the bites that are truly worth it.

 “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive." 1 Corinthians 10:23

5)Truly TASTE your food:
Is it worth the calories it will "cost" you on the budget? Or is it just forbidden fruit? It may not taste as good as you remember it. Taste test before you gobble!

And for "the day after..."
6) Don't step on the scale:
Even if you did all of these things -- you probably had more sodium than usual, and you'll be all prepared to pat yourself on the back... and be sorely disappointed. Or you didn't do any of these things and you want to know how badly to beat yourself up. No. Today's a new day, with the same calorie budget as yesterday. Slate is clean. Go.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22, 23

 7) Water is your friend:
Drink plenty of water (as you should be anyway). That will help flush out the sodium, any extra fluid you may have on board, and help get you back on track quickly. (I'm a HUGE fan of drinking LOTS of water -- all the time! It's basically my answer for everything!)

8) All is grace:
Remember to measure successes in a variety of ways, not just the numbers on the scale or the fit of your clothes. You have to have success with your relationship with food before you have permanent success on the scale. Were you able to stop at one dessert instead of needing 3? VICTORY! Did you only have a half-serving of Aunt Margie's potato salad (when you REEEEAAAALLLLY wanted to sit down with the whole bowl)?? SUCCESS!! Don't beat yourself up for the mountain that you have yet to climb. Turn around and enjoy the view behind you -- and realize that you have the power to PERMANENTLY leave it behind you.

And keep climbing! Just one baby step at a time!


Annnnnnd... Losing Momentum Again....

I had grand plans to try and get something real on the ol' blog today.

But when I woke up this morning, my phone was exploded with texts and phone calls.

And now, I have to wake up this adorable young lady to tell her that this precious young man -- the flashlight tag champion of her birthday party, and a dear buddy since 3rd grade -- quit breathing yesterday and is now healthy and whole and running the streets of gold in heaven.
 And I just don't know how to do that or much else today.
Hug everyone you love extra tight today.


Momentum: Losing, Finding, and Gaining

I'm a ponderer. An over-thinker, probably.  This week, I'm considering momentum. Too much, I'm sure.

I seem to have lost momentum in many areas of my life. Blogging being the most obvious (to any of you that happen by the ol' COTR).

I've also lost momentum in my running. While we have been enjoying a mild winter here in the 'burbs, the last few weeks have been fits and starts of running for me. The week between Christmas and New Year's was AWESOME -- perfect weather and my running partner and I could both run a little later than usual, so we logged in a consistent 5 miles every day for that week.

Then... weather, migraines, and life got in the way. I was logging about one run a week for the last 3. Most of this week I kept a migraine, it rained all week. Blah!

Then... I remembered: The Freeze Your Thorns Off 5k! Oh, yeah! How could I forget?
Misplaced comma alert. It's actually January 28, 2012. But who would notice?
 Adam  -- unquestionably the funniest running blogger out there -- hosted a virtual 5k today/ this weekend-ish. As you can see by the guidelines, the rules are fairly loose for a virtual 5k. I signed up, knowing that I would likely be out running anyway -- then my running partner and I signed up for the 10k portion Cowtown Marathon race series.

Today we planned to meet quite early (I had a 9 a.m. meeting) and knock out 5 miles to prepare for our race.

Walking to meet her, I was definitely freezing my thorns off -- it was only 42* (we've run MUCH colder) but the stupid wind was about 15 mph. I waited and waited and waited and WAITED -- very unlike my very prompt running partner. I did get to snap this awesome pic while waiting (and many more).
 I waited 10 minutes and took off running. Also unlike me (still forgetting about the virtual 5k). I usually go home and go back to bed when my running partner doesn't show. Yes, I am THAT committed.

Here's the deal: BEST! RUN! EVER!! Okay, I don't know if it was the best run ever, but it's the best 5 miles I have run in at least the last 18 months. Besides eating well this week (I'm discovering different ways to eat quinoa! Go me!) I think the "Tabata" workouts I have thrown in the last two weeks have really helped (sprint intervals workouts explained here).
Halfway through! Freezing my thorns off!
Today was a great day to get out and run -- and find some momentum again. So glad I went.


As For Me, I Will Have Hope

I just have a moment to check in here. I am on my way out of town -- I am FIRED UP excited!

I am headed to Houston to celebrate with a group of ladies -- a year's worth of scripture memory work! The Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration is this weekend and I leave in a few short hours and, of course, have a bajillion things to do before I leave (and, guarantee, I WILL forget to pack something important). (If you aren't familiar with Beth Moore's blog and you don't understand what a siesta has to do with scripture -- follow the link and do some reading... it's a long story).

I didn't think I really wanted to go. But I had committed to go with someone. Our budget is very tight (we've recently had a big "destination celebration," you know...) and I'm kind of sloggy... just all of it. However, now that it's here, I am SO excited to go.

One of the HUGE blessings that I am looking forward to: I get to meet a dear friend! I don't mean meet up with -- I mean meet for the first time! Allow me to 'splain. YEARS ago Leigh and I started reading each other's blogs. Then Facebook came along. And Twitter. And she and I both do all of that and keep up with each other there. We are prayer warriors for each other, and laugh at each other. She is a fired up passionate warrior for the Lord. And, guess what?? She will be in Houston this weekend! I finally get to meet my dear friend! It is already the highlight of the weekend for me! :-)

Before I go I wanted to share with you the word the Lord is whispering to me for 2012.
Picture via bles-id blog
Through the last month of 2011 I came to realize what a powerful force 'hope' is. There are many stories of where just a tiny drop of hope came into my day to remind me that God hears, God sees -- and how that tiny drop of hope can truly lift your spirits and make you feel physically better.

Hope. The opposite of despair.

 Then, as I came across Jeremiah 29:11, for probably the gazillionth time, I was struck for perhaps the first time by the word "hope."
This sign can be purchased in WallBling etsy shop
 We look to that verse frequently to be reminded that when our life is spinning, seemingly out of control, God knew it would go this way. And He is in it. And I believe that. (GREAT post about why it's a bad idea to throw this verse at other people whose life is out of control, though).

I was struck that God not only wants to give me a future -- he wants to give me hope, too! He knows what a powerful force hope is, and wants me to have that feeling -- the feeling that is the opposite of despair. The lightness of hoping that something better is to come.

Perhaps I've taken that completely out of context. Perhaps a more scholarly person would tell me I have that verse all wrong. But for now, I have hope. And Psalm 130:5 tells me that's what His word shall provide.
Uploaded by Sue Dudley to Pinterest


Pinspirational: Sweet 16 Party

I'm sure you remember that my girl turned 16 some time ago.

I say it that way because I seem to have lost all track of time. I guess it's been almost two weeks now.

She told me very early on that she wanted to go back to our former town to celebrate her birthday, which didn't surprise me. Sixteen is kind of a big deal to a girl, you know, and you don't celebrate it with people you only have casually known for 4 months. Nope. You go all out with life-long buds. And we did.

A table loaded with candy. And the cake. Awesome.
I think I've mentioned that I'm generally not very good at the party planning. I tried not to break out in hives about a long distance party. I think, overall, I succeeded, but I may or may not have already offered Ashley $5,000 to elope (NOT ANYTIME SOON, MIND YOU).

Since it was a) Sweet 16 and b) Ashley we settled on a theme of CANDY!! Who doesn't love candy? That way, it was a great party for all ages -- Ashley wanted to invite several entire families that have been important to her throughout her life.

Gift table. Faux candy made with plates and cellophane.

 Of course, Pinterest was my best friend and worst enemy throughout all of this.

I found things that I neither a)could afford to do or b) had the time or gumption to do. Remember how I slog through the winter? Remember how this was the week after New Year's?  I just kept telling myself that these kids had never seen my pins on Pinterest, and even if they had, they were too blinded by sugar to know any different.

More candy on the tables. Also, pics of Ashley throughout the years.
 As I was looking for pictures of Ashley to put on the tables, I came across a few pictures of when I was teaching her class Sunday School -- the summer after they finished first grade. About 7 or 8 of the kids that would be at the party were in the pictures, so I brought those, too. I love history with people.

The CandyLand path is simply scrapbook card stock.
Ashley did a great job of figuring out things to do for people of all ages. As you can tell, we had to have it at our former church building. And in January, who knows what the weather would be (it was awesome that day -- but chilly!) so we couldn't count on doing anything outside. So... how about a game of flashlight tag! Flashlight tag is basically hide and seek in the dark where 'it' uses the flashlight to tag someone.
The balloons next to the CandyLand path look JUST like suckers, right? They would if you had time to wrap each of them in cellophane. Which we did not. But it's a great idea if you have time.

Since there were people there who were familiar with the building and people who were not, people could hide in teams of 2 or 3, being sure to partner with someone who knew the building.

The cake is from one I found on Pinterest. Can't find the original link.
 The cake was supposed to have big swirly suckers sticking out of it -- but the lady that made it was nervous about how heavy the suckers were. And I didn't have time to go buy the smaller, spiral suckers which probably would have worked. It didn't originally have the Skittles stuck to each dot on top, but Ashley's former youth minister felt that it was lacking something. Perhaps he had a bit too much sugar, too. The cake tasted great and was precious, to boot.

Besides flashlight tag (who knew the kid in the motorized wheelchair would be so good at hide and seek??) the biggest hit of the evening (that was absolutely not my idea) was the photobooth and the props. Because it was a last minute station/ decision, I didn't have anyone standing there with a camera like I would have liked. So I don't have everyone that was in attendance at the party from the photobooth. However, the kids that were there had a great time with it by themselves, using their cameras on their phones.

The party was so much fun and a grand time was had by all.

I told someone the next day that I honestly can't imagine what a wedding is like -- when people that love your child all gather to honor him/ her AND so many people help and work to pull it off (it took a village to make this happen). I was truly humbled and overwhelmed. You can't say "thank you" enough or  in enough ways to express what it truly means for other people to put forth so much effort to make an event special for your child. I can only pay it forward, I suppose.


Let's Get This Party Started! Two Weeks Later...

Well. Well, hello, there!

Yes, yes this is me. Why in heaven's name would I burst into the blogging scene of 2012? I don't do much bursting in the winter. Slogging is what I do. And oh, how I slog.

But there is so much I want to tell you. And I will. Pinky promise, 'kay?

Like what we did to celebrate a 16th birthday. It was WAY super fun. (We did NOT get a driver's license. Yet. Did you know that out here in the big city/ 'burbs you have to make an APPOINTMENT at your DMV to THEN go wait for hours to take your driving test?? We did not know that until the week before her birthday. Then we did not know until the week OF her birthday that you could make the appointment online. Did you also know that you have to parallel park? Yeah -- if you have any great suggestions on how to teach a 16 year old how to do that, I'm all ears...)

And how I did on my 12 by 2012. Meh. Let's just say that I'm hoping that 50% counts as passing. (I think I may have done a tiny bit better than 50%, but I'm too scared to look right now).

And if I've set any goals for 2012. I did. I even wrote them down. And now I don't remember where I wrote them. Perhaps when I find them I should add "organization" to them. Did you set any goals?

And my word for 2012. I love my word for 2012. God keeps whispering it to me. Ooooh... there's an old hymn by that name, too... I'm not going to tell you now. I hope God is whispering a word to you, too. As a matter of fact, I'm positive that He is. Keep listening.

And... newsflash...! I MADE something from Pinterest! Better still -- it was ADORABLE!!

I know, I know! This post is simply a tease. I shall really write for real later this week.

I'm still applying for jobs right and left. I'm learning that parenting teens is not for the faint (or tender) of heart, but definitely improves your prayer life. And my Christmas present to myself with some Christmas money? This bad boy... Oh, yeah, I got a light therapy box. (and dang, I'm hacked that I linked to that -- now $10 cheaper than I paid for it! Ugh!) I don't winter well (I slog, remember?) and I'm trying to alleviate the slogging through the gray days.

I hear people say all the "you can't appreciate the sunshine if you don't have a little rain" mantras, but some day I shall write and explain the literal fog that comes across my brain after 48 hours of gray. Then the weeping begins. It isn't a dislike -- I dislike the cold. I dislike intense heat. -- this is a physical reaction to a lack of sunlight. And, if you think I'm a whack job that just threw money away on a bright light... I'm totally okay with that, too.

Must run. No license yet means I'm still on carpool duty. Two weeks from today is license test day! Say a prayer for all of us!

Tell me how YOUR 2012 is starting! I've missed all of you!


Happy Birthday to Ashley!

I still vividly remember standing at the kitchen sink, about to leave for the hospital, sixteen years ago this morning. Everything had been done. The house was spotless. My bag was in the car. The car was running. Troy was standing at the door --- it was a BEAUTIFUL day, but cold -- and the sun shone in through the door so brightly I could barely see him. And I cried.

I was terrified of labor, but way more than that, I was terrified of the little life that would come home with me. Did these people know that I was doing good to balance my checkbook? That I liked to eat popcorn for a meal? Should I really be trusted with a real child?

I didn't realize until her brother came along what an easy child she was, but what a ray of sunshine this strawberry blond girl has been. She has talked and sung and laughed her way into all of our hearts. She does not know a stranger and has a ready smile for everyone. People of all ages are drawn to her, and she to them.

Ashley has always had the gift of compassion. She cannot stand for anyone to be left out, or have hurt feelings, not be included, or not be treated the same as anyone else. I frequently look to her as my moral compass -- because she is a quality guide.

Ashley, I am so thankful that you are a walking ministry of grace and mercy. I have needed it at least on a weekly basis as your mom, and you have doled it out by the bucket full. I love being your mom and seeing the joy you bring to so many people -- and me! I am thankful for your heart for other people, while you listen for Jesus to lead you the next step. I won't even talk about how it makes ME feel for you to be 16, but I can't wait to see how God continues to mold you into a beautiful woman for Him.

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